In 2019, 14.4 million Americans were victims of identity fraud and naturally, you don’t want to be part of that statistic. But identity thieves are fiendishly clever and if you’re not careful you too could be a victim of identity theft. It doesn’t help that identity theft can happen in many different ways, so you have to be vigilant at all times. However, there are ways to prevent identity theft and here we look at six of the best methods to ensure that you stay protected at all times.
Keep Your Belongings Safe
It might seem like a simple thing but keeping your belongings safe is vital to preventing identity theft. Shockingly, more than 30% of identity theft victims were scammed by somebody close to them. This means you need to make sure that you keep important information (like your Social Security number) locked away safely and be mindful of what you leave lying around. Similarly, be careful with what information you carry around with you in your wallet or purse and try to keep it down to a minimum. This way, if someone does steal your wallet they’ll have much less to work with.
Protect Your Children
Disturbingly, even children aren’t safe from identity theft and they also need protection. One study found that in 2017 over one million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft and, alarmingly, this can go on unnoticed for years. A key aspect of preventing child identity theft is to be careful about what information is given away about your child on social media (whether by you or them) and make sure to never give out their Social Security number unless absolutely necessary.
Secure Your Online Accounts
One technique that identity thieves use to obtain your information is to gain access to your online accounts. This can happen in different ways, like through phishing, but often it’s because one of the services you have an account with was hit by a data breach. In a data breach potentially millions of credentials are leaked to the dark web. A data breach can happen without you even knowing and in the meantime a thief may have learned your username and password, enabling them to access a large number of your accounts. The best way to combat this is by practicing strong password hygiene and investing in a good password manager.
Use a VPN
Public Wi-Fi is a great convenience, but it isn’t a safe way to connect to the internet. Taking advantage of insecure connections is a common method for identity thieves to discover your credentials. It’s good practice to never input your personal details while using public Wi-Fi. But there are also ways of keeping your connection safe at all times. VPNs are ideal to help prevent your identity from being stolen as they provide strong encryption to all of your data so no one can possibly access it.
Monitor Your Credit
A surefire way of knowing you’ve become a victim of identity theft is by seeing some unexpected changes in your credit score. This could mean someone has racked up debt in your name and you’ll be the one expected to pay for it. A great way to combat this is by keeping a close eye on your credit score for any irregularities and reacting quickly. There are credit monitoring services, like IdentityIQ's MyScoreIQ, that will do this for you by monitoring your credit score daily. In addition, these services will monitor other red flags like changes made to your address or employment information.
Use Identity Theft Protection Services
While all of these precautions should help you prevent identity theft, there’s never a 100% guarantee. That’s why the ultimate tactic to prevent identity theft is to use a dedicated identity theft protection service. These companies monitor many different aspects of identity theft to keep you safe. Using the example of IdentityIQ, the service provides dark web monitoring in case your data has been leaked online. The service also offers extra protection for your whole family and even if your bank card is lost or stolen, IdentityIQ’s support team will be there to help.
Perhaps the most important aspect of these services is the support they offer in case of identity theft. For example, IdentityIQ offers its customers $1 million in identity theft protection insurance to cover any of the potential damages. You’ll also get a U.S.-based case manager who will help guide you through the recovery process and get you back on your feet.
Best Identity Theft Protection of 2021